promoting cultural heritage and conservation

Dig Rome: Palatine Hill

Want to know how we ring in a Happy New Year 2012?  We get our hands dirty in history and want you to help!  For the first time ever, AIRC is offering a second Summer Archaeological Field School to complement its new project at Ostia Antica.   We will be teaming up with Rome’s oldest and most prestigious university La Sapienza to offer the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to dig in one of the most historic spots in the city, the Palatine Hill.

Location:  NE Corner overlooking the Colosseum, along via Sacra between the arches of Titus and Constantine.

History soundbite:  The Palatine is where the Romans thought their city was founded, way back in 753 BC.

Though Palatine excavations have indeed turned up remains of inhabited huts and religious structures dating back to 800-700 BC, they’ve  only scratched the surface of this *very big* (yep, we’re talking enormous both physically and historically) dig, which covers an area of more than 43,000 square feet.  All of Rome’s history is concentrated in this one corner of the Palatine Hill looking over the Colosseum~ from primitive Rome in the Iron Age (the abovementioned huts and religious structures), to the origins of the Empire (the birth-house of the first emperor, Augustus, may be located here), to the extravagant Golden House of the megalomaniac emperor Nero (the site includes a huge terraced portico forming part of the palace), to the epochal transition from pagan to Christian Rome (the ceremonial gear of the last pagan emperor, Maxentius, who was defeated in battle by Constantine the Great, was found deeply buried in the site), to the collapse of Roman civilization in the Early Middle Ages (demonstrated by the installation of a forge in the site around AD 500).

It doesn’t stop there: in the 1930s just a stone’s throw away Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini had the concrete-and-brick core of the 1st-century AD Meta Sudans fountain demolished to allow Adolf Hitler to drive through the Arch of Constantine and into the Colosseum valley in a modern version of the Roman triumph. It is safe to say that this site has seen it all!

Is this program for everyone? Yes and no. Prior excavation experience is not required, but prior coursework in archaeology/anthropology is helpful. An absolulte MUST is a basic conversational command of Italian in order to interact with the rest of the excavation team, who are all Italians.  This is a truly fantastic opportunity to dig into 3000 years of history, live and love contemporary Rome and make Italian friends who will be part of your life forever!

Albert Prieto, is AIRC  Associate Director of Archaeology.  Please contact him at albert[at] for all field school and excavations questions– from academic to gear requirements and intensity to enjoyment, he’s got it covered.

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